Community Development

The Community Development Project (CDP) builds strong foundations for healthy, vibrant and economically stable communities through (1) its legal and capacity building services for nonprofits, small businesses and low income entrepreneurs; and (2) its Housing Opportunities, Preservation and Enforcement Unit, which supports the development and preservation of affordable housing. Read More

Contact Information

The Community Development Project requires prospective clients to complete the appropriate application in order to determine eligibility for legal assistance. Please click here for our applications for legal assistance.

For more information about eligibility for our legal services or the application process, please call:

  • 213-385-2977 X 200.

Seminar: Launching and Sustaining a New Nonprofit

Join us on Wednesday, November 19 for an affordable seminar for new nonprofits, co-sponsored by Public Counsel and the Center for Nonprofit Management.

Startups and new nonprofits face a number of planning, financial, and legal challenges from the outset. This introductory course will cover both legal and programmatic fundamentals, including best practices for designing successful programs, recruiting an effective board, developing a sustainable fundraising plan, forming a California nonprofit corporation and applying for tax exemption, and complying with ongoing tax and legal requirements.

Advance registration is required. For more information and to register for the seminar, please click here.

Meet Our Clients

Public Counsel's Community Development Project assists the nonprofit and small-business doers and dreamers who are making their neighborhoods better. Click here to read their stories.

Read Our E-Newsletter

Community Development Project Enewsletter
Click here to read our latest e-newsletter with timely legal alerts and announcements of upcoming trainings for nonprofit organizations and small businesses.
 
Click here to sign up for our e-newsletter mailing list (select the "Community Development Project e-newsletter").
  • Reconsidering Redevelopment - Neighborhood Based Economic Development in Los Angeles "Reconsidering Redevelopment" is a new Public Counsel report co-authored by more than a dozen community-based groups that highlights the need to address economic development in Los Angeles' poorest areas.
  • Resources for the Formation of A Tax-Exempt California Nonprofit Corporation Resources to assist nonprofit organizations that have chosen to incorporate in California and the pro bono attorneys who represent them
  • New Report Details Strategy for LA Transit Partnership on Affordable Housing Public Counsel's new report about the future of Los Angeles details a strategy for how mass-transit planners can encourage the growth of affordable housing.
  • How Maturing Subsidized Mortgages Threaten Affordable Housing in Los Angeles [2012] Much of LA's affordable housing risks being lost in the next few years due to the maturity of subsidized mortgages. This report describes what's at risk and what responses are needed to keep this housing affordable.
  • Getting There Together: Tools to Advocate for Inclusive Development Near Transit [2012] This guide is a Southern California housing advocates' guide outlining legal tools for influencing affordable housing and land use and disposition policies in a new era of transit-oriented development and smart growth. It sets forth selected strategies that can be used by advocates at the regional, local, neighborhood, and project-specific levels to meaningfully participate in shaping the landscape of our neighborhoods.
  • New California Law Affects Nonprofit Governance Practices [2009] Does your nonprofit corporation have non-voting ex officio directors? Does your executive committee have members that are not directors? Do your bylaws allow certain directors to have more than one vote or vote by proxy? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, AB 1233 may require your organization to review and modify its current governance practices.
  • New Tax Filing Requirement for 501(c)(3) Organizations: The "e-Postcard" [2008] This alert describes the new electronic notice filing requirement for small 501(c)(3) organizations, and a new automatic revocation for organizations of any size that fail to file the required notice or tax return for three consecutive years.
  • New Federal Tax Law Affects Charitable Organizations: "Pension Protection Act of 2006" The "Pension Protection Act of 2006" makes several changes to the tax law that affect 501(c)(3) organizations and the deductibility of charitable contributions. These changes include a new annual information notice filing requirement for charities with less than $25,000 in revenues; automatic revocation of exemption for 501(c)(3) organizations that fail to file information returns or notices for three consecutive years; a limit on the deductibility of donated clothing and household items; and required public disclosure of a charity's unrelated business tax return.
  • New Law Governing Commercial Web Sites and Online Service Providers in California: "California Online Privacy Protection Act" [2004] The "California Online Privacy Protection Act" requires operators of websites that collect personal information from California consumers to include a privacy policy on their sites and outlines specific items that each privacy policy must include.
  • New Law Governing Nonprofits and Charitable Fundraising in California [2004] The "Nonprofit Integrity Act of 2004" amends certain legal provisions applicable to the governance of California nonprofit organizations and charitable fundraising in California.
  • Annotated Form of Articles of Incorporation for a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation [2013] This form is designed to assist nonprofit organizations that have chosen to incorporate in California and the pro bono attorneys who represent them. Each section of the form is annotated with an explanatory endnote, including citations to applicable laws.
  • Annotated Form of Bylaws for a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation [2010] This form is designed to assist nonprofit organizations that have chosen to incorporate in California, existing California nonprofit corporations engaged in a bylaws review, and the pro bono attorneys who represent them. The form is annotated with explanatory endnotes, including citations to applicable laws.
  • Annotated Form of Conflict of Interest Policy [2010] This form is designed to assist nonprofit organizations seeking to adopt or amend a Conflict of Interest Policy and the pro bono attorneys who represent them. The form is annotated with explanatory endnotes, including citations to applicable laws, alternatives, and recommended practices.
  • Annotated Form of Records Management and Retention Policy [2010] This form is designed to assist nonprofit organizations seeking to adopt or amend a Records Management and Retention Policy and the pro bono attorneys who represent them. The form is annotated with explanatory endnotes, including citations to applicable laws, alternatives, and recommended practices.
  • Annotated Form of Whistleblower Policy [2010] This form is designed to assist nonprofit organizations seeking to adopt or amend a Whistleblower Policy and the pro bono attorneys who represent them. The form is annotated with explanatory endnotes, including citations to applicable laws, alternatives, and recommended practices.
  • Annotated IRS Form 990 [2011] This guide is designed to assist California nonprofit public benefit corporations in collecting and disclosing information requested by the revised IRS Form 990. Selected portions of the revised core form, its schedules and instructions are annotated with explanatory notes, including citations to applicable federal laws, filing tips and recommended practices. Where appropriate, the annotations also discuss how California law governing nonprofit public benefit corporations relates to the revised form.
  • Bankruptcy Information for Nonprofits [2009] In this information sheet, the topic of bankruptcy is explored through a series of questions addressing many common concerns of nonprofit organizations from both the perspective of debtor and creditor. The answers offer a starting point for a nonprofit to evaluate whether the remedy of bankruptcy can help it achieve a more sustainable economic future through a reorganization, or whether the time has come to "close with honor." Also considered are the ramifications for a nonprofit when its landlord or a key supplier files for bankruptcy protection.
  • Board Orientation Manual [2011] This form provides a template that will help you develop an orientation manual tailored for new and existing directors of your organization. It also contains a sample appendix with a suggested list of documents that you should provide new directors to better acquaint them with your organization's corporate structure, bylaws and operating policies.
  • Checklist to Maintain Tax-Exempt 501(c)(3) Status [2002] This alert contains certain procedural and filing requirements that nonprofit organizations must comply with under federal and California state law. If your nonprofit organization fails to comply with some or all of these requirements, its tax-exempt status may be revoked.
  • Commercial Co-Ventures [2009] A commercial co-venture is a joint venture between a charitable organization and a for-profit business where the business announces to the general public that a portion of the purchase price of a product or service it sells or provides will, during a stated period, be paid to the charitable organization. This publication provides an overview of the registration, reporting and disclosure requirements associated with commercial co-venture programs, and tips on how to structure a commercial co-venture agreement.
  • Commercial Leases [2006] This guide contains a general introduction to the typical provisions in a lease of commercial space, and discusses issues that a business or nonprofit organization should consider when entering into a lease of space for use in its business or nonprofit activities. It covers the following information: the basics of a commercial lease, types of commercial leases, how to acquire a commercial lease, and terms of commercial leases.
  • Conducting Business Abroad [2013] This guide provides small business owners with an overview of how to navigate the U.S. legal and regulatory framework when conducting business abroad. It covers the following information: Importing into the United States, Exporting from the United States, Country-Specific Economic Sanctions, Antiboycott Laws, Anti-Money Laundering Laws, and The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: Antibribery and Accounting Provisions.
  • El Manejo de Negocios en el Extranjero [2003] [Spanish] This guide provides small business owners with an overview of how to navigate the U.S. legal and regulatory framework when conducting business abroad. It covers the following information: Importing into the United States, Exporting from the United States, Country-Specific Economic Sanctions, Antiboycott Laws, Anti-Money Laundering Laws, and The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: Antibribery and Accounting Provisions.
  • Copyrights & Fair Use for Nonprofits [2010] This guide contains a collection of frequently asked copyright and fair use questions and answers, divided into the following categories: Copyright Basics and Definitions, The Public Domain, Fair Use, Using Copyrighted Works, and Copyright Considerations on the Internet.
  • Copyrights & Trademarks [2003] This guide contains an overview of federal trademark and copyright laws. It covers the following information: What is a Trademark, Trademark Laws, Choosing a Trademark, Acquiring and Protecting Trademark Rights, and Copyrights.
  • Derechos de Autor y Marcas Comerciales [2003] [Spanish] This guide contains an overview of federal trademark and copyright laws. It covers the following information: What is a Trademark, Trademark Laws, Choosing a Trademark, Acquiring and Protecting Trademark Rights, and Copyrights.
  • Dissolution of a California Nonprofit Corporation [2011] This guide is designed to assist directors and executive management staff of California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporations, as well as attorneys who are assisting such corporations on a pro bono basis, understand the process of voluntary dissolution. The guide focuses on the procedures and requirements specified in the California Nonprofit Corporation Law.
  • Employment Law [2009] In this information sheet, applicable California employment laws are explored through a series of questions addressing many common concerns of nonprofit organizations and small businesses. The answers offer a starting point for organizations to evaluate alternatives designed to reduce expenses, including reductions in salaries, work hours or benefits, as well as layoffs.
  • Fiscal Sponsorship: An Alternative to Forming a Nonprofit 501(c)(3) Corporation [2009] Fiscal sponsorship is an alternative available to individuals or groups performing charitable services and wishing to give their donors the ability to take a charitable contribution deduction, but not wanting to spend a great amount of time and resources to comply with the extensive filing requirements, tax compliance, and other legal obligations associated with incorporation and tax exemption. Fiscal sponsorship may be appropriate when the proposed charitable program is relatively small in scope, temporary in nature or when the business plan is in its beginning stages.
  • Fundraising Issues for Nonprofit Organizations [2013] This alert highlights certain legal considerations, including tax on unrelated business activities (UBIT), sales and use tax, substantiation of charitable contributions and solicitation for charitable purposes, involved with fundraising activities. It also covers the registration and reporting requirements for charitable poker night fundraisers, bingo, raffles, auctions and other sales of goods.
  • Guide to Forming A Charitable, Tax-Exempt, Nonprofit Organization [2013] This guide provides a basic overview of the process, and a discussion of some of the issues to consider in determining whether to form a nonprofit tax-exempt organization.
  • Lease Modifications [2009] In this information sheet, the topic of lease modifications is explored through a series of questions that address many of the common experiences and concerns of organizations leasing commercial real estate in these economically challenging times. The answers offer a starting point for a nonprofit or small business to evaluate whether it can achieve a more sustainable economic future through rent abatement, rent deferral, sub-letting, or other lease concessions.
  • Leave Policies [2003] This guide contains an overview of overlapping federal and California state statutes that apply to any employee leave of absence issue. It covers the following information: Introduction to Employee Leave, Family and Medical Leave, The Americans with Disabilities Act, California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Pregnancy Disability Leave, Military Leave and Other Statues that Affect Employee Leave.
  • Licencia Para Ausentarse [2003] [Spanish] This guide contains an overview of overlapping federal and California state statutes that apply to any employee leave of absence issue. It covers the following information: Introduction to Employee Leave, Family and Medical Leave, The Americans with Disabilities Act, California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Pregnancy Disability Leave, Military Leave and Other Statues that Affect Employee Leave.
  • Legal Issues For Small Businesses and Nonprofit Agencies [2002] This guidebook provides basic information on the following subjects: Organizing your business, Forming Charitable Tax-Exempt Nonprofit Organizations, Obligations and Possible Liabilities of Directors and Officers of Public Benefit Corporations, Employment Issues, Forming and Signing Contracts, Insurance Considerations, Federal Tax Considerations for Small Businesses.
  • Asuntos Legales Para Negocios Pequenos y Agencias no Lucrativas [2002] [Spanish] This guidebook provides basic information on the following subjects: Organizing your business, Forming Charitable Tax-Exempt Nonprofit Organizations, Obligations and Possible Liabilities of Directors and Officers of Public Benefit Corporations, Employment Issues, Forming and Signing Contracts, Insurance Considerations, Federal Tax Considerations for Small Businesses.
  • List of Initial Filing Fees for Setting Up a California Tax Exempt Corporation [2014]
  • Loan Modifications [2009] In this information sheet, the topic of loan modification options are explored through a series of questions addressing many common concerns of nonprofit organizations that are struggling to manage outstanding debt. The answers offer a starting point for a nonprofit to evaluate when it may be appropriate to modify a loan, what some other alternatives may be, and how a loan modification might help the nonprofit organization to keep its doors open during this economic crisis.
  • Mediation vs Litigation: Things to Consider Before Going to Court [2011] This document defines mediation as a private process where a neutral third person called a mediator facilitates a discussion of the issues at hand and helps you and the other party to potentially resolve the dispute through negotiation; describes several advantages of the process; and provides a list of some local organizations that may be helpful.
  • Merchant Contracts [2006] This guide provides a general introduction to transactions involving the sale of goods. It covers the following information: the fundamentals of the purchase/sale transaction, contracts, gap filling terms, delivery, inspection, acceptance and rejection, warranties and warranty disclaimers, consequential damages and other damages.
  • Mutual Directorships [2004] This alert highlights some issues a director of multiple nonprofit organizations may encounter when presented with a business opportunity that creates a potential conflict of loyalties.
  • Public Disclosure of Tax Documents This alert provides an overview of the legal requirement that tax-exempt organizations make federal exemption applications (Form 1023) and annual informational tax returns (Form 990) available for inspection by the public. The law requires that most tax-exempt organizations make copies available to the public on request and allow in-person inspection.
  • Public Support Test [2003] This alert is designed as a general reminder to nonprofits that are recognized by the IRS as tax-exempt "public charities" under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. In order to maintain public charity status, most public charities must raise revenues from the general public, the government and other public charities in order to meet a numerical test. If the public charity fails to meet this test, its status may revert to that of "private foundation."
  • Preventing and Investigating Fraud, Embezzlement, and Charitable Asset Diversion: What's A Nonprofit Board To Do? [2014] This guide includes practical steps your board can take to prevent embezzlement and, if necessary, respond to it.
  • Risk Management & Insurance Guide for Nonprofits [2013] This guide provides a basic overview of the risk management process. Using a case study as an example, the guide explains the three fundamental steps that every organization should take in order to create a risk management plan: assess the nonprofit's risks; mitigate those risks to the greatest extent practicable; and obtain insurance to help pay the costs in the event a loss occurs.
  • Trademark Basics for Nonprofits [2009] This guide contains a collection of frequently asked trademark questions and answers, divided into the following categories: Trademark Definitions, How to Establish a Trademark, Proper Use of a Trademark, and Protecting a Trademark from Infringement.
  • Wage and Hour Laws [2004] This alert contains a summary of California wage and hour laws that apply generally to most employers (including nonprofits), as of August 2004.
  • The Housing Element - What is it, and How Can You Get Involved? [2008] Summarizes housing element law and what advocates can do to get involved in the 2008 update process.
  • Introduction to Public Counsel's Community Development Project Public Counsel's Community Development Project works with the doers and dreamers to help launch and support nonprofits and community based businesses with legal support. We expand jobs and opportunity. And we protect and expand affordable housing for seniors, and people with low income. Click the link to download an overview of of our work (PDF, 11 MB)
  • Launching and Sustaining a New Nonprofit - Nov. 19 This introductory course covers both legal and programmatic fundamentals, including best practices for designing successful programs, recruiting an effective board, developing a sustainable fundraising plan, forming a California nonprofit corporation and applying for tax exemption, and complying with ongoing tax and legal requirements.
  • How to Form a California Charitable Tax-Exempt Nonprofit Corporation This program is a general overview of the legal steps required to form a California nonprofit public benefit corporation and apply for tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) status.
  • Webinar Series: Trademarks, Copyrights and Proprietary Information Join us for a series of FREE webinars on the steps your organization can take to legally protect its trade name, copyright its materials and safeguard the security of its proprietary information. This series is co-sponsored by Public Counsel and the DC Bar Pro Bono Program.
  • e-Newsletters for Nonprofit Organizations and Small Businesses CDP's e-Newsletters include timely legal alerts and announcements of upcoming seminars.
  • Form 990 Policy Series The IRS Form 990 now asks several questions about nonprofit governance policies and procedures. This series of memoranda was designed to help legal counsel to advise clients on drafting and adopting such policies. Each memorandum includes a form policy with a discussion of why various provisions might be used by a particular organization, as well as rationales for adoption of the policies, including references to applicable statutes and regulations. The series was created by the Form 990 Policy Series Group, a group of California lawyers who practice nonprofit law, including Public Counsel's General Counsel.
  • FAQs About CDP's Assistance to Nonprofits The five most frequently asked questions regarding the Community Development Project's Assistance for Nonprofits.
  • Resources for Tax-Exempt California Nonprofit Corporations Public Counsel's Community Development Project (CDP) provides a wide range of transactional legal services to qualifying nonprofit organizations. We assist start-up nonprofits that share our mission by helping to incorporate, obtain tax exemption, and establish workable corporate structures and policies. This collection of resources for nonprofit organizations and pro bono attorneys includes information on forming a nonprofit as well as information, forms and policies that are useful to existing nonprofits.
  • Why Your Nonprofit Might Need Legal Assistance
  • Why You and Your Small Business Might Need Legal Assistance
  • Southern California Housing Element Resources
  • Resources for Small Businesses Free or low-cost individualized consulting, training, and loan programs for small businesses.
  • Surviving the Economic Crisis - Useful Information and Resources for Small Businesses Is your small business struggling due to the economic downturn? This document contains information sheets prepared by attorneys addressing legal issues you may be facing now, such as loan or lease modifications, employment laws, and referrals to other sources of financial and consulting assistance for small businesses.
  • Surviving the Economic Crisis - Information and Resources for Nonprofits Do you represent a nonprofit organization that is facing diminished resources? Is the nonprofit considering changes to its operations to preserve its financial strength? This resource contains information sheets addressing timely legal issues ranging from loan and lease modifications to employment law, and helpful resources on how non-profits can adapt to and operate in this tough economic environment.